Paddy Davitt verdict: Two-faced Norwich City test the patience
PUBLISHED: 06:00 01 May 2017 | UPDATED: 10:23 01 May 2017
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Norwich City have turned navel-gazing into an art form this season. Time to view the events at Elland Road through a positive filter.
Stuart Webber’s scalpel will address the set piece vulnerability, the alarming concession rate, the inability to routinely resist away from Carrow Road. It will take new personnel, a new head coach and a new mindset. Webber’s public pronouncements to this point suggest he knows the scale of the decline and will seek to address it over a crucial summer.
There will be no concerted upturn in the mood or the atmosphere at Carrow Road, a topic he bravely addressed publicly in recent days, until a frustrated support base feel they have a team who can regularly match that high brow offensive intensity with some earthier, stout resistance. The imminent arrivals of recruitment figures in Chris Badlan and Kieran Scott are an opening gambit. Webber knows he must get Alex Neil’s successor right and when he unveils the chosen one, following the conclusion of a Championship season to forget, this most meticulous of sporting directors is sure to have a weighty dossier regarding what the head coach inherits.
City can score beautiful goals but they concede at a charitable rate. You realise it is bad when even the normally composed, mild mannered Alan Irvine is enraged by what unfolded in a matter of seconds between Nelson Oliveira’s second goal and the way Chris Wood nonchalantly glided inside Mitchell Dijks to divert Stuart Dallas’ cross past John Ruddy.
Irvine called that passage of play ‘unprofessional’. There are more choice words to describe the way Norwich’s celebrating players had not shuffled back into their positions for the restart.
That cuts to the core of Webber’s major recruitment challenge. The lack of individual responsibility, the chronic failure to sense danger, the sight too often of Norwich players losing penalty box duels in the air or on the ground is endemic in this set of under-performing young men.
Any semblance of cohesion or organisation unravels, almost predictably. Once Wood had grabbed Leeds a lifeline the rest of the script had a depressingly familiar feel. Pontus Jansson won a near post header after getting the drop on Dijks, Alex Pritchard for once was unable to untangle his talented feet, and Kyle Bartley showed greater desire than any opponent in yellow to pounce. It was an ugly goal, it contained none of the majesty of Steven Naismith’s long range hit or Oliveira’s sweet curler, but it was a statement of intent.
City rocked and rolled, resisted waves of Leeds pressure and once the storm had appeared to recede, shipped again when Pablo Hernandez bent a free kick that nestled in the middle of Ruddy’s goal. You can question the keeper, you can question the Norwich wall, you can marvel at Hernandez’s technique but the 47th and final concession in the league away from Carrow Road this season was entirely avoidable.
It was half measures again from a squad who appear to have mastered what it takes with the ball but not without it.
Webber will know that better than anyone. What he does about it this summer will dictate whether City can be upwardly mobile again next season.